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Stib launches shock campaign against verbal abuse towards staff

14:13 23/11/2022

Brussels public transport operator Stib has launched a new campaign against the verbal and physical abuse its employees often face.

“Every day, Stib employees are victims of verbal aggression: insults, abusive language, threats, etc,” the transit company said in a press release, adding that these attacks are becoming more frequent.

Last year, Stib counted 657 reported cases of verbal aggression by travellers against staff and 113 physical attacks.

The Stib indicated that the real figures are likely much higher, as staff do not always report each and every aggression they face, especially verbal ones.

“No form of aggression has its place on the Stib network. These are unacceptable, full stop,” said Brieuc de Meeûs, the transport operator's chief executive.

“Our staff dedicate themselves to passengers every day. They deserve respect like everyone else. Aggression is increasing in our city, all sectors are affected. We urgently need to come to our senses.”

The new awareness campaign, called Respect, is hoping to draw attention by capitalising on the shock factor.

A song composed with rapper Youssef Swatt features examples of some of the profanities and verbal abuse that Stib employees have actually experienced: "Words that nobody wants to hear, that nobody deserves to hear," the song explains.

The full, uncensored music video can only be seen on YouTube. Elsewhere, images and song snippets were censored for profanity.

“F*** off with your ticket,” is one of the censored messages that can be found on posters throughout the Stib network.

“It's important to shock people to make an impression,” explained Stib spokeswoman Cindy Arents.

“Simply saying ‘be polite, be courteous’ is fine, it's important, but it's not as effective. Putting real insults that employees hear every day is shocking, because nobody wants to hear that.”

Rapper Youssef Swatt’s father was a bus driver for Walloon public transport operator TEC in Tournai.

“I immediately agreed to participate in this project because the theme behind it touches me directly and is close to my heart,” he said.

“I have been living in Brussels for seven years and use the Stib a lot, so I am in regular contact with drivers and I greatly admire their work. This has been the case since childhood, by the way.

"Driving a vehicle the size of a bus is very impressive. It’s a job that requires a lot of sacrifice, with work patterns that are not always easy. The safety and comfort of passengers depends on the driver. They are usually in the shadows and are not appreciated often enough."

The campaign also features several Stib employees, some of whom even appear in the music video.

“At the wheel of these impressive vehicles are people – we are also subject to the stress of the network,” said metro driver Stella Gbossa.

“When there are incidents, we experience them together with passengers. We also have a responsibility to find solutions to restore the service.

"I chose to participate in this campaign to humanise our work and explain to passengers that we are just like them, and that it is always nicer to be respectful to each other, even at such times. In these situations, small gestures like a hello, a smile or a thank you are so nice."

Written by Helen Lyons